I travel back to the Grand Tetons National park every year atleast once, and have been calling it my second home for more years than I can count. I had never even heard of the park the first time I accidentally drove down from Yellowstone on a whim. I didn’t have any set plans for the day and saw a guy with a large boat in a gas station headed south so my friend and I asked what lake he was headed to and he told us Colter Bay – an hour and a half south in the Grand Tetons. We were clueless, but he gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a little exploratory drive to check it out.
Who knew that would be the start of umpteen years of back and forth travel. First from California, now from Hawaii. At that point the park was a relative unknown compared to its northern and internationally acclaimed neighbor Yellowstone. What started out as a simple exploratory day trip, then morphed slowly into one night in a cabin, two nights in a cabin, to entire vacations planned around this quiet setting at the base of the mountains in off-peak tourist seasons. The less people, the less traffic, the more peace and quiet and the more animals. Makes for a perfect stay.
Every year I stumble on a new little charming corner of the park here or there in my daily romps trying to get a break from the increasing crowds. It seems like more and more people are learning what a fabulous destination it is, and relatively easily to access just a short drive from Jackson Hole. Even after spending time in South Africa with so much anticipation of being able to observe and photograph wildlife behaviors in a naturally intact eco-system I still strongly believe that Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Park are the best examples of this I’ve found anywhere to date.
Despite the hunting and trapping allowed outside park boundaries which is indeed very unfortunate and highly controversial, atleast within the park itself there’s plenty of room for all the animals to forage and hide and raise their young. It’s a pretty amazing sight to be able to be hiking through and area and see an elk, bison, moose or bear emerge from a thicket and just as quickly disappear without a sound.
This image was captured during a stormy late September visit where either thunderstorms or low thick cloud cover would pay a visit at some point nearly every day. I was just outside the park trying to get an image of the historic cabins at Mormon Row on a particularly dark morning when I decided to take a drive further into the foothills to see if I could find any wildlife. I’ve found a small herd of bison a few times way up in the tree line that seem to stay out of sight in the aspen groves and old ruins of a couple long forgotten cabins out there.
This threesome had wandered quite far from the rest of the herd and as the thunder was beginning to roll in from a distance, and the clouds quickly became darker and thick preparing to storm, they headed off towards the Gros Ventre Wilderness. With the air so still and the sky so dark, it’s one of my favorite images from the time spent there so far. Simple and quiet, yet still with the anticipation that comes with the calm before the storm.